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Is Levelling Up cutting through?

21 November 2022
Levelling Up

Three years into the agenda, and a year after our first report, is Levelling Up hitting home in target areas of the UK? 

Many people believe the next election will be decided by which party is seen to be doing the most to 'Level Up' the country, in particular within the former 'Red Wall' seats in the North and the Midlands.  Rishi Sunak's opening speech as Prime Minister included a pledge to Level Up every region in the UK, taking forward the policy that helped Boris Johnson sweep to victory in the 2019 General Election, and Kier Starmer has said his approach will be built around a strategic plan with funding for infrastructure.  

In June 2021, DWF worked with YouGov to understand the views of residents in the North and the Midlands and published the report 'Will Levelling Up meet voter priorities? ' which identified clear priorities centring on safety and security, job security, and improving local high streets.

This year we re-contacted many of those residents to see how attitudes towards Levelling Up and their local area have changed over the past year.

Is Levelling Up cutting through?

Our new report identifies the following key findings

  • Impact
    Levelling Up

    Message is clearer but the impact is not

    The concept of Levelling Up is better understood than it was in our June 2021 survey and an increasing number of people are associating it with the promise of economic opportunity and success. However, it may seem surprising that it is the residents in LUTAs who are disillusioned with the programme and fail to see positive impacts so far.  

  • Funding
    Levelling Up

    Funding fear is palpable

    People are dissatisfied with the funding they understand their local area is to receive, believing it is lower than in previous years and that they still receive less government investment than those in the South East of England. They are also concerned with the impact that feared cuts to public spending would have on the success of Levelling Up. 

  • Pride
    Levelling Up

    Local areas and local pride decline further

    Residents in the North and Midlands see their local area has having declined even further since 2021, and local pride has not been restored.
  • Priorities
    Levelling Up

    Missed opportunities and mismatched priorities

    The key priorities for levelling up identified by YouGov/DWF research in 2021 have not been addressed, and, if anything, many people believe these issues have worsened. 

  • Transport
    Levelling Up

    Critical transport in decline

    The importance of local and national transport links is increasing as the country emerges from the pandemic, but people are experiencing a worsening in their services and local and national links. 

  • Success
    Levelling Up

    Could a regional approach provide a route for Levelling Up success?

    There are distinct and important regional divides, highlighting the need for a targeted approach to Levelling Up which addresses the specific needs of residents in each area. In particular, the North of England shows higher levels of dissatisfaction with transport, and the Midlands more in need of pride revival. 

Levelling Up

"The Government's Autumn Statement highlighted Levelling Up's continuing importance, as well as announcing greater power and flexibility for metro mayors. Our research supports the appetite for greater influence from Metro Mayors in taking forward practical Levelling Up initiatives."

Jonathan Branton, Head of Government and Public Sector
Download report

Download report

To find out what residents in the North and Midlands really think about Levelling Up, download 'Is Levelling Up cutting through?' 


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